Bike Commuter Journal – Lessons Learned After 1 Year

Wednesday, January 28 by JerryFoster

After a year of bike commuting from Princeton Junction to Carnegie Center in West Windsor, I’ve learned a very important lesson – timing is everything. This morning, my timing was perfect – in two miles I was only passed by 3 cars! See the video and skip to the times in parentheses referring to each lesson.

Lesson 1 (0:00) – Start after 9am (or before 8am) to avoid serious rush hour craziness. I pedaled through the neighborhood using the sidewalk shortcut that brings you to the back driveway of RiteAid on Rt 571.

Lesson 2 (0:20) – Congestion is a bike commuter’s friend. Wait at the driveway until the cars queue up, stopped for the light at Cranbury/Wallace, then proceed through the line to the left turn lane toward the station.

Lesson 3 (1:30) – Time the train schedule, and arrive at the station when people aren’t rushing to catch the train, or have just disembarked and are rushing toward the offices along Alexander and Rt 1. This morning the station was quiet, only met one pedestrian going the other way in the tunnel.

Lesson 4 (5:00) – Follow the traffic platoon. Turning right from the station (Vaughn Drive) and riding on Alexander Road is the most stressful part of the commute, since there is not enough congestion to slow traffic – it’s a 5 lane race course. I ride in the middle of the right lane, so cars pass in the left, which is very safe and as low stress as possible, given the conditions, but still not low stress. If you wait until the burst of traffic heads west on Alexander and then follow it, you’re rewarded with as much no-traffic time as possible – this morning only 3 cars passed by on this stretch.

Lesson 5 (6:00) – Watch the gap in your mirror. When you see the next traffic platoon approaching, evaluate your options for moving to the middle turn lane to make a left into any of 3 places – 2 office driveways or Roszel Road.

Lesson 6 (6:30) – The secret sidepath. On this wet and snowy morning, I went for the first office driveway and used the connecting multi-use path to the 2nd driveway and around back through the parking lot to make the left onto Roszel.

And that’s it! Somehow nobody passed me on Roszel (8:20), which is 4 lanes but very lightly traveled even between 8-9am – again I ride in the middle of the right lane.

Please contact us at wwbikeped@gmail.com to share your low stress bike commuting tips.

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WWBPA Movie Night at the Arts Center – “Wadjda”

Wednesday, January 14 by joegorun

Wadjda (2012) Please join us Saturday February 7, 2015, at 7:30 pm for a showing of “WADJDA” at the West Windsor Arts Center. Admission is free for WWBPA or WWAC members, $5 otherwise.

 

“WADJDA is a movie of firsts. This first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia is the story of a young girl living in a suburb of Riyadh determined to raise enough money to buy a bike in a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl’s virtue. Even more impressive, WADJDA is the first feature film made by a female Saudi filmmaker. In a country where cinemas are banned and women cannot drive or vote, writer- director Haifaa Al Mansour has broken many barriers with her new film”.

WADJDA is a 10-year-old girl living in a suburb of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Although she lives in a conservative world, Wadjda is fun loving, entrepreneurial and always pushing the boundaries of what she can get away with. After a fight with her friend Abdullah, a neighborhood boy she shouldn’t be playing with, Wadjda sees a beautiful green bicycle for sale. She wants the bicycle desperately so that she can beat Abdullah in a race. But Wadjda’s mother won’t allow it, fearing repercussions from a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl’s virtue. So Wadjda decides to try and raise the money herself. At first, Wadjda’s mother is too preoccupied with convincing her husband not to take a second wife to realize what’s going on. And soon enough Wadjda’s plans are thwarted when she is caught running various schemes at school. Just as she is losing hope of raising enough money, she hears of a cash prize for a Koran recitation competition at her school. She devotes herself… Written by Razor Film Produktion GmbH

 

 

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Mercer First to Complete Streets (Policies)

Saturday, January 10 by JerryFoster

Complete Streets logoFive years after Montclair and NJDOT adopted New Jersey’s leading Complete Streets policies, this week Mercer County became the first to have all roads covered – state, county and every municipality. Congratulations to Mercer County for reaching this very important milestone toward making our communities more bicycle and pedestrian friendly!

Complete Streets policies require road improvements to support biking, walking and transit for users of all ages and abilities as the rule rather than the exception, and provide for incremental improvements without mandating retrofits.

Complete Streets benefit everyone, e.g. better safety (not just for cyclists and pedestrians, but mainly for motorists), higher property values (see walkscore.com) and improved security (more eyes on the street). Those who walk or bike feel better, are healthier and live longer – students who bike or walk to school score better on standardized tests.

Realizing these benefits will take time, as responsibility for our roads is divided between the state (for federal and state roads), counties and municipalities. Even a short trip can include roads and/or bridges under the care of many jurisdictions – for example, biking around Princeton’s Carnegie Lake involves traversing 3 counties and 5 municipalities, plus a state and maybe even a federal road.

What does a Complete Street look like? It depends – Complete Streets are not cookie-cutter. All of these pictures might be considered examples in some sense, while each may have additional possibilities to make them even more complete.

See if you can pick out which picture shows which Mercer County municipality – Trenton, Hamilton, Ewing, Hopewell Township, Pennington, Hopewell Boro, Princeton, Lawrence, West Windsor, East Windsor, Hightstown and Robbinsville.

biking on the sidewalk w adult Hightstown Stockton Dutch Neck nb Robbinsville Pond Rd MS 56 cycles ped xwalk Hamilton Estates G Dye Roundabout Cyclist East Windsor Dutch Neck Dorchester 4 xwalks Nassau Sharrows
Lawrence Johnson Trolley Trail Xing Hopewell Denow Roundabout 1 Pennington Cyclist Texting Hopewell Boro Broad St Xing
Ewing Presbyterian Church Xing
Trenton Bike Lane Paver and Asphault

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Safer Pedestrian Crossing of Clarksville at Hawk

Monday, November 24 by JerryFoster

Hawk Clarksville 2 dark shotsWhat would you do? You’re walking at night, from the station to home north of Clarksville – up Scott Ave, through school grounds and the parking lot to the intersection of Clarksville and Hawk Drive.

There’s no marked crosswalk, but there is a streetlight. Or, you could go to the painted crosswalk at the opposite edge of school grounds, but there is no street light and no way to manually activate the blinking crosswalk lights that are set on a timer for the students.

Also, you’d then have to walk back to Hawk Drive to continue home.

What would you do? Cross under the street light without a painted crosswalk or at the painted crosswalk without light? See the picture for an approximation of the differences.

Please join us at the Twp Council meeting tonight, Monday November 24, 2014, to ask for an improved painted crossing with a streetlight, pedestrian-activated warning lights and turning on the existing speed display signs at all times, not just during school times.

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Bike Commuter Journal

Wednesday, November 12 by joegorun

I’ve been commuting to work in the Plainsboro and West Windsor area on and off for 8 years, and bikes were always a central focus of my life. Post-college, the bike was replaced with the car, shuttling from one commitment to the next. With increasing work responsibilities, I lost sight of what matters most. I started focusing on convenience over happiness and status over health. After a few years the longer car commutes, office lunches, and stress started taking a mental and physical toll. Gym memberships collected dust, and bigger pants couldn’t solve the problems any longer. Suddenly I didn’t recognize myself. A year ago I had an “awakening” and realized it was time for a number of changes, including a commitment to consistently commute by bike no matter what.

Lifebycycle_Commuter Journal

Today, it’s going well. As it turns out, this area is actually amazing for biking to work, to the store, or just for fun. Often it’s actually EASIER than driving. You have your choice of bike lanes, bike paths, or even roads, and it’s getting even better thanks to the hard work of many people.  More importantly, there is a growing tolerance on the roads, and most drivers are also closet bicyclists just waiting to start bike commuting as well. You can even expand your biking with a simple bus or train excursion.

My commute brings me past the beautiful fields of Stult’s Farm, down the boulevard-esque bike lanes of Southfield Road, and even through Mercer County Park, where I routinely pass dozens of deer. I’ve also rode in rain, floods, and snow, and enjoyed every minute. I take in the beautiful scenery and admire the changing seasons, all from the seat of my bike.

Riding a bike is more than just exercise or cost savings; it’s fun too. It’s the high gear to happiness!

-Robert Stasio

Lifebycycle@hotmail.com

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Our area residents bike in support of the East Coast Greenway

Wednesday, October 29 by joegorun

Four Princeton-area residents participated in a weeklong bicycle ride in October from Philadelphia to Fredericksburg, Va. to promote the East Coast Greenway (www.greenway.org), a 2,900-mile urban version of the Appalachian Trail that links cities from the Canadian border in Maine down to Key West in Florida.

NJ East Coast Greenway riders and the gov

The four, Robert Russo of Belle Mead, Dan Rappoport of Princeton and neighbors Melinda Posipanko and Silvia Ascarelli of West Windsor, bicycled on everything from trails to quiet streets to roads with plenty of traffic, and across the National Mall in Washington. Together, they raised more than $11,000 for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the nonprofit organization that is working with state and local partners to put more of the route on trails and quiet roads.

The 325-mile ride is an annual event, but the location changes. The goal to ride one section of the East Coast Greenway a year (hence the name, the Week-a-Year Ride) and finish in Key West in 2019. The 2013 ride came through Princeton and West Windsor because the East Coast Greenway includes the D&R Canal Towpath from New Brunswick to Trenton.

“This annual ride provides an exploratory trip to experience the economic impact that off-road trails can and do provide to the different communities that we ride through,” said Robert Russo, who is the treasurer for the East Coast Greenway Alliance. “We get to meet with government leaders in the different states to emphasize the economic and health benefits of a growing off-road trail network.”

All 40-plus riders met with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who is considered the most bike-friendly governor in the U.S. By the end of 2017, 60% of the East Coast Greenway route in that state should be off roads. Overall, about 30% of the route is now off roads, and the vision is to get all of it away from traffic.

Dan Rappoport has participated in three of the four rides so far, only missing the first, from Calais, Maine to Portland, Maine. In 2013, the ride from Hartford, Conn. to Philadelphia took him past his childhood home in Cranford. Riding down the East Coast, he says, is his substitute for the dream of a cross-country bike ride.

The ride was Melinda Posipanko’s first multi-day tour. She loved how the Greenway crafts safe routes by connecting existing trails with quiet roads wherever possible.  She was particularly impressed that the route did not go out of its way to avoid less fortunate neighborhoods in the cities and towns it passed through thereby enhancing the possibility that bike tourism will bring economic benefits to these areas.

Like the others, Silvia Ascarelli, a first-time east Coast Greenway rider, is taken with the vision of a route from Canada to Key West. While Delaware is making impressive strides with its off-road trails, she was equally wowed with the well-used network of trails in Maryland from Baltimore to Washington that made riding there a pleasure. For more about this year’s ride, read her blog, www.exploringbybike.wordpress.com

The 2015 version of the ride will pick up where this one ended, in Fredericksburg, and will end in Raleigh, North Carolina. This will be a more difficult ride than in previous years due to longer mileage and fewer greenway sections, so it will be geared toward advanced cyclists. Anyone interested in participating can email info@greenway.org for more information.

In the attached photo, from left:

Silvia Ascarelli of West Windsor, Melinda Posipanko of West Windsor, former New Jersey resident Ed Majtenyi, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Robert Russo of Belle Mead, Dan Rappoport of Princeton

 

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Travel Lanes, Shoulders or Bike Lanes – Which is Best?

Friday, September 19 by JerryFoster

Cars moving up shoulder on 571Consider the following scenario – you’re stopped in traffic by a long line of cars waiting for the light – this being New Jersey, you move up the shoulder, where there’s plenty of room. Unfortunately, a car turning left through a gap in the waiting cars hits you – who gets the ticket?

Would it be any different if you were riding a bike up the shoulder? Who would get the ticket then?

What if you were riding your bike in a bike lane instead of a shoulder – now who gets the ticket?

The motorist or cyclist on the shoulder would get the ticket, since shoulders are not for traveling – the cyclist in a bike lane would “only” be injured, not ticketed, since s/he has legal right of way.

This scenario is based on a real life incident in Chatham, where a cyclist on the shoulder was hospitalized and ticketed for unsafely passing cars on the right when he crashed into a car turning left into a drugstore driveway. As the Polzo v Essex County ruling confirmed, “a bicycle rider is directed to ride on the furthest right hand side of the roadway, not on the roadway’s shoulder.”

So cycling in the travel lane or a bike lane provides legal right of way, but what about safe operating conditions?

The NJ Supreme Court ruled that travel lanes and shoulders do not need to be maintained for safe cycling – “Public entities do not have the ability or resources to remove all dangers peculiar to bicycles.” “Roadways generally are intended for and used by operators of vehicles.” “A ‘vehicle’ is defined as ‘every device in, upon or by which a person or property is or may be transported upon a highway, excepting devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks or motorized bicycles.’”

Bike lanes offer safe operating conditions – “A public entity’s designation of a portion of the roadway as a bicycle lane would alter the generally intended use of that part of the road and would require the public entity to maintain it in a reasonably safe manner for those purposes.”

So here’s the score:

  1. Bike Lanes – right of way and safe operating conditions
  2. Travel Lane – right of way but operating conditions sufficient for vehicles only, not bikes
  3. Shoulder – neither right of way nor safe operating conditions

The court provided NJ cyclists with another option to gain safe operating conditions for specific roadway or shoulder segments – notify the maintaining entity (state, county or municipality) that you routinely cycle on a specific road or shoulder. “Plaintiff offered no evidence that the shoulder of Parsonage Hill Road was designated as a bicycle lane or routinely used as one.” “We need not address here the standard of care that might apply under the Torts Claims Act if a roadway’s shoulder were routinely used as a bicycle lane and the public entity responsible for the maintenance of that roadway was on notice of that use.”

Will adoption of a Complete Streets policy provide a future court sufficient evidence of intended use by cyclists? If so, cyclists would enjoy a better standard of care for travel lanes, though perhaps not as good as for bike lanes.

 

 

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2014 WW Biking and Walking Up 24%

Friday, September 12 by JerryFoster

Rite Aid Counting Location 2014Now our 4th annual survey, WWBPA volunteers counted 343 bicyclists and pedestrians at 3 locations around the train station on Wednesday September 10, 2014 between 5-8pm. Last year the count was 334, but the numbers are not directly comparable, since we counted at 5 locations last year. Comparing the same locations at the same times, biking and walking increased 24% over last year (which had decreased 18% from the year earlier). The weather cooperated this year, only 80 degrees and mostly sunny, in contrast to last year’s hot (90 degrees) and humid day.

Once again we participated in the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project, an effort to accurately and consistently measure usage and demand for bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

Our 2014 findings:

  1. Cranbury/Wallace/571 (Rite Aid) – 28 bike, 113 walk
  2. Scott/Alexander (Arts Center) – 34 bike, 106 walk, 2 others
  3. Vaughn/Alexander (bus stop) –  18 bike, 42 walk

Total: 343 people, 80 who bike, 261 who walk, 2 on motorized wheelchairs or skateboards

Thanks to our volunteers!

Traffic along 571 in downtown West Windsor flowed freely except from 6:00-6:04pm, likely due to 2 different trains from NYC arriving within 5 minutes of each other.

Other observations:

  • midblock crossings of 571 at Rite Aid driveway – 8
  • male – 243, female – 98 (“Other” gender data not collected)
  • walkers – 261, cyclists – 80
  • male cyclists – 70, female cyclists – 10
  • male walkers – 173, female walkers – 88
  • At 571, 4 semi trucks, two traveling together at 7:35pm
  • At 571, 11 car honks, none directed at cyclists or pedestrians (most re left turning, a few at the 571 merge point where 2 lanes decrease to 1 southbound)
  • At 571, the vast majority of cyclists wore helmets
  • At 571, one couple relaxed in the pocket park for about 10 minutes
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Are Cyclists Riding on Shoulders At Their Own Risk?

Friday, August 29 by JerryFoster

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe NJ Supreme Court ruled in 2012 re the county’s potential liability for surface defects on the shoulder that a cyclist was riding on when she crashed and subsequently died (Polzo v Essex County). The ruling generated concern that cyclists riding on the shoulder may be treated differently by the legal system than those in a bike lane, but after reading the ruling carefully, I believe that concern is unfounded.

The court found:

1. The depression caused the tragic fatality.

2. “The Motor Vehicle Code provides that a “roadway” is the portion of highway generally used for vehicular travel; the “shoulder” borders the roadway and is for emergency use; and “vehicles” are not bicycles. Bicyclists are directed to ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable. While they may be inclined to ride on the shoulder, they have no special privileges if they do.”

3. “Public entities do not have the ability or resources to remove all dangers specific to bicycles.”

The ruling is clear to this point – cyclists riding on the road or shoulder may not expect a standard of care specific to bicycles. Cyclists may be dismayed by the NJ Motor Vehicle Code, but there is equality between the roadway and shoulder  re the standard of care. “No special privileges” does not mean “at your own risk.”

They then examined if the actual depression was a dangerous condition under the Tort Claim Act, noting “Under the TCA, a dangerous condition means a condition that creates a substantial risk of injury when such property is used with due care in a manner in which it is reasonably foreseeable that it will be used.”

They might have stayed with the logic that cyclists riding on the shoulder have no special privileges, because the law says shoulders are not part of the roadway, and only roadways are generally intended to be used by bicycles under the law (to the extent bicycles are an intended use even though they’re not vehicles).

But no, they said:

4. “Plaintiff offered no evidence that the shoulder was routinely used as a bicycle lane, which might implicate a different standard of care.”

So a shoulder that is “routinely used as a bicycle lane” might be expected to be held to a “different standard of care,” though presumably not to the extent as to “remove all dangers specific to bicycles.”

Since evidence of routine use may determine generally intended purpose and trigger a different standard of care, concern re a distinction between shoulders and bike lanes is unnecessary, in my not-a-lawyer view.

Perhaps the plaintiff’s lawyer should have introduced NJDOT standards for bicycle compatible shoulders as evidence of intended purpose, but in any case Essex County now has a Complete Streets policy that clarifies that bicycling is an intended purpose for county roads.

While cyclists are rightly concerned about the NJ Motor Vehicle Code, the suit was primarily about tort claims, which used the MVC only to determine intended purpose, and even finding none with regard to shoulders, ignored it in favor of a standard of evidence of routine use.

 

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Bike Commuter Journal – The Art of Improvising

Thursday, July 31 by JerryFoster

Fireflies Chris Ecgnoto

Fireflies photo by Chris Egnoto (used with permission)

Welcome back guest blogger Don Pillsbury sharing some of his cycling incidents and a great picture courtesy of his friend.

There are many benefits from cycling. Personally, what I have learned most from regularly riding my bike is the art of improvising. No matter how well you plan, it is inevitable, at some point; you will encounter a situation that requires you to “make do.” Such is the time my headlight inexplicably gave out. (Fortunately it was the peak of firefly season and the iridescent insects guided my way along the D&R Canal Towpath – it is one of my most cherished memories.)

Or riding along and having the crank/pedal fall off. (I had read about a one-legged cyclist and decided to see what it is like.) Or like getting to the office and discovering the set of clothes you distinctly remember leaving there before hand were not to be found. (That situation took some creativity.)

You can only pack a set amount of tools, spare parts, gear, and equipment.

After that, it’s a matter of keep calm and ride on – with creativity and humor.

Thank you Don! If you would like to write about your experience in a guest post, please email wwbikeped@gmail.com.

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Upcoming Events

Feb 7      Movie Night – “Wadjda”  7:30 pm, doors open at 7pm, at the West Windsor Arts Center

Feb 12    Monthly Meeting  7 pm – Municpal Bldg

Feb 21    Bike Summit

Mar 12   Annual Membership Meeting  7 pm  - Municpal Bldg

  • Guest Speaker – Appalachian Trail thru hiker experiences
  • Community Service Awards
  • Cranbury Rd bike/ped options panel discussion

Mar 15   Bike Repair Class at Twin W Ambulence Bldg @ Sun 2pm

  • Basic bicycle maintenance
  • Learn how to get your bike ready for the spring.

Apr 9      Monthly Meeting 7 pm - Municpal Bldg

May 17   Adult Learn to Bike – 10 am to 1 pm – Vaughn upper parking lot

Ongoing – Register your bike with the WW Police Dept for Free

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